Longtime AJWS Grantee A Focus In Highly Anticipated Book By The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof And Author Sheryl WuDunn

“Half the Sky” highlights the ‘stunning difference’ made by Tostan in massive movement to end female genital cutting in West Africa

New York, NY; August 25, 2009 — American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is proud to congratulate its grantee Tostan, which is the focus of a chapter in acclaimed journalist Nicholas Kristof’s and author Sheryl WuDunn’s upcoming book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Over the course of two decades, Senegal-based Tostan has empowered more than 3,000 communities in 10 African countries to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. Known for the community-led campaign to promote human rights and the abandonment of practices such as female genital cutting and child/forced marriage, the Tostan program also empowers communities to become engaged in democracy, protecting maternal and child health, improving literacy, and starting sustainable businesses.  

AJWS has supported Tostan since 1995 to promote women’s health and human rights in Senegal. To date, Tostan’s work has resulted in the public abandonment of female genital cutting in more than 4,000 communities in West Africa.  A recent UNICEF-funded study showed 77 percent abandonment of the practice 10 years after the implementation of Tostan’s program.  

“There is nothing more gratifying to us than being able to work with an organization from its earlier days and help it grow into an entity that is making an impact on a global scale,” said Ruth W. Messinger, AJWS’s president. “The recognition and attention Tostan has drawn from such respected voices of human rights and international development as Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is well-deserved.”  

The abandonment of female genital cutting has spread to additional countries, including Guinea and The Gambia as well as making recent forays into the African Diaspora. Tostan’s approach of empowering individuals and groups to mobilize around key development issues in their communities has also been integrated into several major international strategies and fully adopted by the Senegalese government. Most recently, Tostan announced a new campaign to scale up its work and double its impact by reaching an additional 3,000 communities.  

“AJWS has been a critical partner over the years, supporting us to integrate human rights learning and women’s health as a core part of our education program,” Tostan’s director Molly Melching said.  “We are proud of our collaboration with AJWS as it has always encouraged us to follow the needs and objectives of the women and communities we’re working to empower.”

For More Information

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.